La Paz: Baja California Sur’s Oyster

LA PAZ — You won’t find a Garter Inn when visiting Baja California Sur’s capitol city of La Paz. No restaurants are named after Falstaff or Pistol. However there is one connection between La Paz and Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – oysters.

The popular phrase “the world is your oyster” can be traced back to a dialog between Pistol and Falstaff in the story published and performed in the 17th century. La Paz, meanwhile, has quite the long history with pearls and oysters – dating almost as far back as one of Shakespeare’s popular works.

An excerpt from C.M. Mayo’s “The Sea of Cortés in Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico” stated the existence of pearl fishers coming to the La Paz area can be traced as far back as the 16th century.

A large amount of pearl oyster shells were found on a La Paz beach in 1740, Mayo added in his book.

“By the early twentieth century, when journalist Arthur North came through, La Paz had become chief producer in the world’s pearl fishing industry,” an article about Mayo’s book on BajaInsider.com stated. “In his 1908 book ‘The Mother of California,’ North noted that the peninsula’s ‘annual output is valued at a quarter of a million dollars, gold, and is promptly marketed in London, Paris and other great European marts.’”

La Paz’s place as the center of the pearl universe was also referenced in John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl.” A restaurant at the CostaBaja Resort and Spa on the outskirts of La Paz, coincidentally, is named “Steinbeck.”

Nothing is forever, of course, as La Paz’s pearl fishing industry apparently died after World War II, according to Mayo. The Baja California Sur capitol is now a destination for sportfishing, boating, diving and other recreational activities. The history of oysters in La Paz, however, is prominently on display on the city’s Malecón. Take a stroll along the main La Paz waterfront and you’ll come across a public art display of an oversized metallic oyster … with a large “pearl” inside.

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